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Why construction workers are at high risk for back injuries

Construction workers, including those in California, are at higher risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder than are all other workers combined. So says a recent study by the Center for Construction Research and Training.

The main reason for such risk is that construction workers often must lift and/or carry heavy loads. In addition, they often find themselves in awkward postures and consistently repeating the same body movements throughout the day. They also may be subject to excessive vibrations. Over time, these things cause their bodies to become chronically fatigued. This, in turn, causes their bodies to lose the ability to recover from each successive injury. Resulting conditions can include the following:

  • Tendon and muscle strains
  • Ligament sprains
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Tendonitis; i.e., inflammation of the tendons

Alarming statistics

As reported by Fox News, these conditions often are called work-related musculoskeletal disorders or WMSDs. Overexertion of construction workers’ backs cause over 40 percent of construction WMSDs and account for approximately 25 percent of all non-fatal construction injuries.

Workers most at risk

Given America’s aging workforce, it is not surprising that construction workers most at risk for back injuries are those aged 55-64 and those who have been on the job for five years or longer. These workers also take longer to recover from their injuries. Over the years, time away from work for recovery has increased. In 1992, the average lost work time was eight days; this had risen to 13 days by 2014.

Experts agree that ergonomic solutions are the best way to minimize back injuries. Such things as never lifting more than 50 pounds without assistance from a coworker and using a dolly to move heavy loads whenever possible are two such solutions.

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